Tea Crops Lead to Deforestation, Which Hurts the Hippos

15 May

Kelly Rossiter posted about her recent trip to Kenya on the Tree Hugger website. She starts the post by explaining that Lipton‘s operation has a Rainforest Alliance certification. I talked about these in my earlier post. However, even before they were certified their operation followed many of the required guidelines. Lipton has planted over 700,000 new trees to help stabilize the environment. However, Lipton’s farmers were one of the only examples of a farm that was well managed and good for the surrounding environment.

Hippo and Flamingoes at Lake Nakuru

Lipton is located near the Mau Forest, which is experiencing high levels of deforestation. Over the last 15 years approximately 25% or 2152 hectares of the forest has been cut down. The Kenyan people burn down the forest for many reasons, some for fuel, some for land, and some for political reasons. Of that 2152 hectares of forest 542 hectares were planted with tea. This is the largest non forest use of this land. Tea is a cash crop, which means that it is grown and exported to global markets. The global demand for tea feeds the need for Kenyan farmers to find viable land to grow more tea.

According to the “Underlying Causes of Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Kenya“, by Lynette Obare and JB Wangwe, some governmental measures have been taken to protect the Mau Forest. The Nyayo Tea Zones Development Corporation was given land to cultivate tea on. This land was set aside to protect the forest but also provide a source of income and employment for locals. However the land given for these tea zones was not good for growing tea. Therefore, farmers have expanded into the forest for more fertile land and the government has done little to nothing to stop this.

An abcess on a Hippo that didn't spend time in the water

An abscess on a Hippo that didn't spend time in the water

The Mau forest is the largest water catchment in Kenya. A water catchment is a place where rain water is collected. However, without the trees the Mau forest is no longer a water catchment.

No trees = no rain = no crops = no food = no wildlife = no tea = no export = no tourism = no future.

Kenya stands to lose a nature-based economic asset worth over US $300 million alone to the tea, tourism and energy sectors if the forest of the Mau Complex continues to be degraded and destroyed, the UN Environment Programme said.

Whenever water is involved the scope of the problem is magnified. Without water the lakes in Maasai Mara National Park do not have as much water as they once did. With decreased depths the hippos are in danger of increased exposure to the sun which causes skin infections and lesions.

Baby Humpfrey sitting on me.

Baby Humpfrey sitting on me.

At Lake Nakuru the salinty of the lake has increased because of the forest fires. This has caused many small organisms in the water to die and threatens the flamigoes that feed on them.

As you will continue to see, small human actions have huge environmental implications. Can you believe that cutting down trees is killing the hippos?

1 Comment

Posted by on May 15, 2009 in Sustainable Agriculture


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

One response to “Tea Crops Lead to Deforestation, Which Hurts the Hippos

  1. candywwgm

    May 17, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    Its scary (and emotionally depressing) to see how each little human act can have such a major impact on the environment so far away from home 😦 Who would ever think that a cup of tea … a simple cup of tea … can annihilate so many lives. The world is so interconnected it boggles the mind somehow. If only more people were aware of the repercussions of their day to day lives.

    It was great to read this article though to help spread the world about the plight of a lesser known animal in the public’s eye. You don’t, unfortunately, hear a lot about hippo conservation in the mainstream news.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: